Shelter neighbour fed up, wants to move from Maple Ridge

Mike Homen stands on a property across from his own Cliff Ave. property where the homeless set up tents and dump garbage. Homen moved into the house he currently owns 15 years ago.
Mike Homen stands on a property across from his own Cliff Ave. property where the homeless set up tents and dump garbage. Homen moved into the house he currently owns 15 years ago. 'When it was a quiet, quaint little corner of Maple Ridge with Fanny's Fabrics there,' said Homen. Since the Salvation Army opened up at the corner of Lougheed Hwy. and the Haney Bypass, he said, the neighbourhood has deteriorated.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

For years, Mike Homen has dealt with rampant drug use and property theft around his home on Cliff Avenue, near downtown Maple Ridge.

His home backs on to an alley shared with the Salvation Army's Caring Place Ministries homeless shelter and has become ground zero for all manner of illegal and illicit activity.

But recent thefts have the Maple Ridge father saying enough is enough.

Last Wednesday, the outboard motor on Homen's boat was stolen from his driveway, despite being locked up.

And this past weekend, Homen's 1950 Mercury pickup truck he was planning to restore was stolen from the alley behind his house.

With his two eldest daughters preparing to move out of the family home, Homen doesn't feel the neighbourhood is a safe place to raise his remaining 14-year-old daughter.

"I'm done with this area," he said.

"They will take anything that isn't bolted down."

Earlier this summer, the District of Maple Ridge tore down a dilapitated house where many homeless in the area congregated at the end of Cliff Avenue. Found in the basement were thousands of dollars worth of stolen parts from Catalina Pools and Spa, located across the alley.

Police and security staked out the area for a month while the home was demolished and the lot cleared.

"That worked for a little while, but as soon as the police and security were gone, they came crawling out of the woodwork," said Homen.

"As long as the Caring Place is there, we're going to have this problem."

However, Darrell Pilgrim, director of the Caring Place, said the area has been a gathering place for Maple Ridge's homeless long before the Salvation Army moved to the corner of Lougheed Highway and Haney Bypass almost 10 years ago.

"It's one of the few secluded places in downtown Maple Ridge," he said.

Many of those camped out behind the Caring Place have been kicked out of the shelter for offences like threatening the staff or guests, or doing drugs on the premises.

Anyone who stays at the 55-bed shelter must sign a "good neighbour agreement," which states they won't associate with those camped out behind the shelter. Volunteers from the shelter also take part in a weekly community clean-up.

If the area is to improve, the problem of homelessness, as a whole, needs to be addressed, said Pilgrim.

"There's two main things driving homelessness [in Metro Vancouver]," he explained.

"First, housing costs are off the charts and its just getting worse. Second, there's not enough mental health treatment for people on the streets. There's not enough facilities, and there's not enough legislation to help the people that need it."

If the Caring Place were to close its doors tomorrow, the area would still be overrun with homeless men and women.

"Every community has a shelter, every community has homeless, its part of living in Canada," said Pilgrim.

The Salvation Army wants to be part of the solution, but is limited in what it can do, he added.

"We have a lot more support in the community than detractors," said Pilgrim. "But if there's any way we can help, please let us know and we'll try to do it."

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